Realistic NSTIC

Posted August 10th, 2011 by

OK, it’s been out a couple of months now with the usual “ZOMG it’s RealID all over again” worry-mongers raising their heads.

So we’re going to go through what NSTIC is and isn’t and some “colorful” (or “off-color” depending on your opinion) use cases for how I would (hypothetically, of course) use an Identity Provider under NSTIC.

The Future Looks Oddly Like the Past

There are already identity providers out there doing part of NSTIC: Google Authenticator, Microsoft Passport, FaceBook Connect, even OpenID fits into part of the ecosystem.  My first reaction after reading the NSTIC plan was that the Government was letting the pioneers in the online identity space take all the arrows and then swoop in to save the day with a standardized plan for the providers to do what they’ve been doing all along and to give them some compatibility.  I was partially right, NSTIC is the Government looking at what already exists out in the market and helping to grow those capabilities by providing some support as far as standardizations and community management.  And that’s the plan all along, but it makes sense: would you rather have experts build the basic system and then have the Government adopt the core pieces as the technology standard or would you like to have the Government clean-room a standard and a certification scheme and push it out there for people to use?

Not RealID Not RealID Not RealID

Many people think that NSTIC is RealID by another name.  Aaron Titus did a pretty good job at debunking some of these hasty conclusions.  The interesting thing about NSTIC for me is that the users can pick which identity or persona that they use for a particular use.  In that sense, it actually gives the public a better set of tools for determining how they are represented online and ways to keep these personas separate.  For those of you who haven’t seen some of the organizations that were consulted on NSTIC, their numbers include the EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology (BTW, donate some money to both of them, please).  A primary goal of NSTIC is to help website owners verify that their users are who they say they are and yet give users a set of privacy controls.

 

Stick in the Mud

Stick in the Mud photo by jurvetson.

Now on to the use cases, I hope you like them:

I have a computer at home.  I go to many websites where I have my public persona, Rybolov the Hero, the Defender of all Things Good and Just.  That’s the identity that I use to log into my official FaceBook account, use teh Twitters, log into LinkedIn–basically any social networking and blog stuff where I want people to think I’m a good guy.

Then I use a separate, non-publicized NSTIC identity to do all of my online banking.  That way, if somebody manages to “gank” one of my social networking accounts, they don’t get any money from me.  If I want to get really paranoid, I can use a separate NSTIC ID for each account.

At night, I go creeping around trolling on the Intertubes.  Because I don’t want my “Dudley Do-Right” persona to be sullied by my dark, emoting, impish underbelly or to get an identity “pwned” that gives access to my bank accounts, I use the “Rybolov the Troll” NSTIC  ID.  Or hey, I go without using a NSTIC ID at all.  Or I use an identity from an identity provider in a region *cough Europe cough* that has stronger privacy regulations and is a couple of jurisdiction hops away but is still compatible with NSTIC-enabled sites because of standards.

Keys to Success for NSTIC:

Internet users have a choice: You pick how you present yourself to the site.

Website owners have a choice: You pick the NSTIC ID providers that you support.

Standards: NIST just formalizes and adopts the existing standards so that they’re not controlled by one party.  They use the word “ecosystem” in the NSTIC description a lot for a reason.



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Federated Vulnerability Management

Posted July 14th, 2009 by

Why hello there private sector folks.  It’s no big surprise, I work in the US Federal Government Space and we have some unique challenges of scale.  Glad to meet you, I hear you’ve got the same problems only not in the same kind of scale as the US Federal Government.  Sit back, read, and learn.

You see, I work in places where everything is siloed into different environments.  We have crazy zones for databases, client-facing DMZs, managment segments, and then the federal IT architecture itself: a loose federation of semi-independent enterprises that are rapidly coming together in strange ways under the wonderful initiative known as “The TIC”.  We’re also one of the most heavily audited sectors in IT.

And yet, the way we manage patch and vulnerability information is something out of the mid-80′s.

Current State of Confusion

Our current patch management information flow goes something like this:

  • Department SOC/US-CERT/CISOs Office releases a vulnerability alert (IAVA, ISVM, something along those lines)
  • Somebody makes a spreadsheet with the following on it:
    • Number of places with this vulnerability.
    • How many have been fixed.
    • When you’re going to have it fixed.
    • A percentage of completion
  • We then manage by spreadsheets until the spreadsheets say “100%”.
  • The spreadsheets are aggregated somewhere.  If we’re lucky, we have some kind of management tool that we dump our info into like eMASS.
  • We wonder why we get pwned (by either haxxorz or the IG).

Now for how we manage vulnerability scan information:

  • We run a tool.
  • The tool spits out a .csv or worse, a .html.
  • We pull up the .csv in Excel and add some columns.
  • We assign dates and responsibilities to people.
  • We have a weekly meeting togo over what’s been completed.
  • When we finish something, we provide evidence of what we did.
  • We still really don’t know how effective we were.

Problems with this approach:

  • It’s too easy to game.  If I’m doing reporting, the only thing really keeping me reporting the truth is my sense of ethics.
  • It’s slow as hell.  If somebody updates a spreadsheet, how does the change get echoed into the upstream spreadsheets?
  • It isn’t accurate at any given moment in time, mostly because changes quicker than the process can keep up.  What this means is that we always look like liars who are trying to hide something because our spreadsheet doesn’t match up with the “facts on ground”.
  • It doesn’t compare with our other management tools like Plans of Action and Milestone (POA&M).  They usually are managed in a different application than the technical parts, and this means that we need a human with a spreadsheet to act as the intermediary.

So this is my proposal to “fix” government patch and vulnerability management: Federated Patch and Vulnerability Management through SCAP.

Trade Federation Battle Droid photo by Stéfan.  Roger, Roger, SCAP means business.

Whatchu Talkin’ Bout With This “Federated” Stuff, Willis?

This is what I mean, my “Plan for BSOFH Happiness”:

Really what I want is every agency to have an “orchestrator” ala Ed Bellis’s little SCAP tool of horrors. =)  Then we federate them so that information can roll up to a top-level dashboard for the entire executive branch.

In my beautiful world, every IT asset reports into a patch management system of some sort.  Servers, workstations, laptops, all of it.  Yes, databases too.  Printers–yep.  If we can get network devices to get reported on config info via SCAP-enabled NMS, let’s get that pushing content into our orchestrator. We don’t even really  have to push patches using these tools–what I’m primarily concerned with at this point is to have the ability to pull reports.

I group all of my IT assets in my system into a bucket of some sort in the orchestrator.  That way, we know who’s responsible when something has a problem.  It also fits into our “system” concept from FISMA/C&A/Project Management/etc.

We do periodic network scanning to identify everything on our network and feed them into the orchestrator.  We do regular vulnerability scans and any findings feed into the orchestrator.  The more data, the better aggregate information we can get.

Our orchestrator correlates network scans with patch management status and gives us a ticket/alert/whatever where we have unmanaged devices.  Yes, most enterprise management tools do this today, but the more scan results I have feeding them, the better chance I have at finding all my assets.  Thanks to our crazy segmented architecture models, we have all these independent zones that break patch, vulnerability, and configuration management as the rest of the IT world performs it.  Flat is better for management, but failing that, I’ll take SCAP hierarchies of reporting.

The Department takes a National Vulnerability Database feed and pushes down to the Agencies what they used to send in an IAVA, only they also send down the check to see if your system is vulnerable.  My orchestrator automagically tests and reports back on status before I’m even awake in the morning.

I get hardening guides pushed from the Department or Agency in SCAP form, then pull an audit on my IT assets and have the differences automagically entered into my workflow and reporting.

I become a ticket monkey.  Everything is in workflow.  I can be replaced with somebody less expensive and can now focus on finding the answer to infosec nirvana.

We provide a feed upstream to our Department, the Department provides a feed to somebody (NCSD/US-CERT/OMB/Cybersecurity Coordinator) who now has the view across the entire Government.  Want to be bold, let Vivek K and the Sunlight Foundation at the data feeds and have truly open and transparent, “Unbreakable Government 2.1″.  Who needs FISMA report cards when our vulnerability data is on display?

Keys to Making Federated Patch and Vulnerability Management Work

Security policy that requires SCAP-compatible vulnerability and patch management products.  Instead of parroting back 800-53, please give me a requirement in your security policy that every patch and vulnerability management tool that we buy MUST BE SCAP-CERTIFIED.  Yes, I know we won’t get it done right now, but if we get it in policy, then it will trickle down into product choices eventually.  This is compliance I can live with, boo-yeah!

Security architecture models (FEA anyone?) that show federated patch and vulnerability management deployments as part of their standard configuration.  OK with the firewall pictures and zones of trust, I understand what you’re saying, now give me patch and vulnerability management flows across all the zones so I can do the other 85% of my job.

Network traffic from the edges of the hierarchy to…somewhere.  OK, you just need network connectivity throughout the hierarchy to aggregate and update patch and vulnerability information, this is basic data flow stuff.  US-CERT in a future incarnation could be the top-level aggregator, maybe.  Right now I would be happy building aggregation up to the Department level because that’s the level at which we’re graded.

Understanding.  Hey, I can’t fix everything all the time–what I’m doing is using automation to make the job of fixing things easier by aggregation, correlation, status reporting, and dashboarding.  These are all concepts behind good IT management, why shouldn’t we apply them to security managment also?  Yes, I’ll have times when I’m behind on something or another, but guess what, I’m behind today and you just don’t know it.  However, with near-real-time reporting, we need a culture shift away from trying to police each other up all the time to understanding that sometimes nothing is really perfect.

Patch and vulnerability information is all-in.  It has to be reporting in 100% across the board, or you don’t have anything–back to spreadsheets hell for you.  And simply put, why don’t you have everything in the patch management system already?  Come on, that’s not a good enough reason.

POA&Ms need to be more fluid.  Face it, with automated patch and vulnerability management, POA&Ms become more like trouble tickets.  But yes, that’s much awesome, smaller, easily-satisfied POA&Ms are much easier to manage provided that the administrative overhead for each of these is reduced to practically nothing… just like IT trouble tickets.

Regression testing and providing proof becomes easier because it’s all automated.  Once you fix something and it’s marked in the aggregator as completed, it gets slid into the queue for retesting, and the results become the evidence.

Interfaces with existing FISMA management tools.  This one is tough.  But we have a very well-entrenched software base geared around artifact management, POA&M management, and Security Test and Evaluation results.  This class of software exists because none of the tools vendors really understand how the Government does security management, and I mean NONE of them.  There has to be some weird unnatural data import/export acts going on here to make the orchestrator of technical data match up with the orchestrator of managment data, and this is the part that scares me in a federated world.

SCAP spreads to IT management suites.  They already have a footprint out there on everything, and odds are we’re using them for patch and configuration management anyway.  If they don’t talk SCAP, push the vendor to get it working.

Where Life Gets Surreal

Then I woke up and realized that if I provide my Department CISO with near-real-time patch and vulnerability mangement information, I suddenly have become responsible for patch and management instead of playing “kick it to the contractors” and hiding behind working groups.  It could be that if I get Federated Patch and Vulnerabilty Management off the ground, I’ve given my Department CISO the rope to hang me with.  =)

Somehow, somewhere, I’ve done most of what CAG was talking about and automated it.  I feel so… um… dirty.  Really, folks, I’m not a shill for anybody.



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Security Automation Developers Conference Slides

Posted July 2nd, 2009 by

Eh? What’s that mean?  Developer Days is a weeklong conference where they get down into the weeds about the various SCAP schemas and how they fit into the overall program of security automation. 

Highlights and new ideas:

Remedial Markup Language: Fledgeling schema to describe how to remediate a vulnerability.  A fully automated security system would scan and then use the RML content to automagically fix the finding… say, changing a configuration setting or installing a patch.  this would be much awesome if combined with the CVE/CWE so you have a vulnerability scanner that scans and fixes the problem.  Also needs to be kept in a bottle because the operations guys will have a heartattack if we are doing this without any human intervention.

Computer Network Defense: There is a pretty good scenario slide deck on using SCAP to automate hardening, auditing, monitoring, and defense.  The key from this deck is how the information flows using automation.

Common Control Identifier:  This schema is basically a catalog of controls (800-53, 8500.2, PCI, SoX, etc) in XML.  The awesomeness with this is that one control can contain a reference implementation for each technology and the checklist to validate it in XCCDF.  At this point, I get all misty…

Open Checklist Interactive Language: This schema is to capture questionaires.  Think managerial controls, operational controls, policy, and procedure captured in electronic format and fed into the regular mitigation and workflow tools that you use so that you can view “security of the enterprise at a glance” across technical and non-technical security.

Network Event Content Automation Protocol:  This is just a concept floating around right now on using XML to describe and automate responses to attacks.  If you’re familiar with ArcSight’s Common Event Format, this would be something similar but on steroids with workflow and a pony!

Attendance at developer days is limited, but thanks to all the “Powar of teh Intarwebs, you can go here and read the slides!



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Your Security “Requirements” are Teh Suxxorz

Posted July 1st, 2009 by

Face it, your security requirements suck. I’ll tell you why.  You write down controls verbatim from your catalog of controls (800-53, SoX, PCI, 27001, etc), put it into a contract, and wonder how come when it comes time for security testing, we just aren’t talking the same language.  Even worse, you put in the cr*ptastic “Contractor shall be compliant with FISMA and all applicable NIST standards”.  Yes, this happens more often than I could ever care to count, and I’ve seen it from both sides.

The problem with quoting back the “requirements” from a catalog of controls is that they’re not really requirements, they’re control objectives–abstract representations of what you need in order to protect your data, IT system, or business.  It’s a bit like brain surgery using a hammer and chisel–yes, it might work out for you, but I don’t really feel comfortable doing it or being on the receiving end.

And this is my beef with the way we manage security controls nowadays.  They’re not requirements, functionally they’re a high-level needs statement or even a security concept of operations.  Security controls need to be tailored into real requirements that are buildable, testable, measurable, and achievable.

Requirements photo by yummiec00kies.  There’s a social commentary in there about “Single, slim, and pleasant looking” but even I’m afraid to touch that one. =)

Did you say “Wrecks and Female Pigs’? In the contracting world, we have 2 vehicles that we use primarily for security controls: Statements of Work (SOW) and Engineering Requirements.

  • Statements of Work follow along the lines of activities performed by people.  For instance, “contractor shall perform monthly 100% vulnerability scanning of the $FooProject.”
  • Engineering Requirements are exactly what you want to have build.  For instance, “Prior to displaying the login screen, the application shall display the approved Generic Government Agency warning banner as shown below…”

Let’s have a quick exercise, shall we?

What 800-53 says: The information system produces audit records that contain sufficient information to, at a minimum, establish what type of event occurred, when (date and time) the event occurred, where the event occurred, the source of the event, the outcome (success or failure) of the event, and the identity of any user/subject associated with the event.

How It gets translated into a contract: Since it’s more along the lines of a security functional requirement (ie, it’s a specific functionality not a task we want people to do), we brake it out into multiple requirements:

The $BarApplication shall produce audit records with the following content:

  • Event description such as the following:
    • Access the $Baz subsystem
    • Mounting external hard drive
    • Connecting to database
    • User entered administrator mode
  • Date/time stamp in ‘YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS’ format;
  • Hostname where the event occured;
  • Process name or program that generated the event;
  • Outcome of the event as one of the following: success, warn, or fail; and
  • Username and UserID that generated the event.

For a COTS product (ie, Windows 2003 server, Cisco IOS), when it comes to logging, I get what I get, and this means I don’t have a requirement for logging unless I’m designing the engineering requirements for Windows.

What 800-53 says: The The organization configures the information system to provide only essential capabilities and specifically prohibits and/or restricts the use of the following functions, ports, protocols, and/or services: [Assignment: organization-defined list of prohibited and/or restricted functions, ports, protocols, and/or services].

How It gets translated into a contract: Since it’s more along the lines of a security functional requirement, we brake it out into multiple requirements:

The $Barsystem shall have the software firewall turned on and only the following traffic shall be allowed:

  • TCP port 443 to the command server
  • UDP port 123 to the time server at this address
  • etc…..

If we drop the system into a pre-existing infrastructure, we don’t need firewall rules per-se as part of the requirements, what we do need is a SOW along the following lines:

The system shall use our approved process for firewall change control, see a copy here…

So what’s missing, and how do we fix the sorry state of requirements?

This is the interesting part, and right now I’m not sure if we can, given the state of the industry and the infosec labor shortage:  we need security engineers who understand engineering requirements and project management in addition to vulnerability management.

Don’t abandon hope yet, let’s look at some things that can help….

Security requirements are a “best effort” proposition.  By this, I mean that we have our requirements and they don’t fit in all cases, so what we do is we throw them out there and if you can’t meet the requirement, we waiver it (live with it, hope for the best) or apply a compensating control (shield it from bad things happening).  This is unnerving because what we end up doing is arguing all the time over whether the requirements that were written need to be done or not.  This drives the engineers nuts.

It’s a significant amount of work to translate control objectives into requirements.  The easiest, fastest way to fix the “controls view” of a project is to scope out things that are provided by infrastructure or by policies and procedures at the enterprise level.  Hmmm, sounds like explicitly stating what our shared/common controls are.

You can manage controls by exclusion or inclusion:

  • Inclusion:  We have a “default null” for controls and we will explicitly say in the requirements what controls you do need.  This works for small projects like standing up a pair of webservers in an existing infrastructure.
  • Exclusion:  We give you the entire catalog of controls and then tell you which ones don’t apply to you.  This works best with large projects such as the outsourcing of an entire IT department.

We need a reference implementation per technology.  Let’s face it, how many times have I taken the 800-53 controls and broken them down into controls relevant for a desktop OS?  At least 5 in the last 3 years.  The way you really need to do this is that you have a hardening guide and that is the authoritative set of requirements for that technology.  It makes life simple.  Not that I’m saying deviate from doctrine and don’t do 800-53 controls and 800-53A test procedures, but that’s the point of having a hardening guide–it’s really just a set of tailored controls specific to a certain technology type.  The work has been done for you, quit trying to re-engineer the wheel.

Use a Joint Responsibilities Matrix.  Basically this breaks down the catalog of controls into the following columns:

  • Control Designator
  • Control Title
  • Provided by the Government/Infrastructure/Common Control
  • Provided by the Contractor/Project Team/Engineer


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When Standards Aren’t Good Enough

Posted May 22nd, 2009 by

One of the best things about being almost older than dirt is that I’ve seen several cycles within the security community.  Just like fashion and ladies’ hemlines, if you pay attention long enough, you’ll see history repeat itself, or something that closely resembles history.  Time for a short trip “down memory lane…”

In the early days of computer security, all eyes were fixed on Linthicum and the security labs associated with the NSA.  In the late 80′s and early 90′s the NSA evaluation program was notoriously slow – glacial would be a word one could use…  Bottom line, the process just wasn’t responsive enough to keep up with the changes and improvements in technology.  Products would be in evaluation for years before coming out of the process with their enabling technology nearly obsolete.   It didn’t matter, it was the only game in town until NIST and the Common Criteria labs  came onto the scene.  This has worked well, however the reality is, it’s not much better at vetting and moving technology from vendors to users.  The problem is, the evaluation process takes time and time means money, but it also means that the code submitted for evaluation will most likely be several revisions old by the time it emerges from evaluation.   Granted, it may only be 6 months, but it might take a year – regardless, this is far better than before.

So…  practically speaking, if the base version of FooOS submitted for evaluation is, say Version 5.0.1, several revisions –  each solving operational problems affecting the  organization — may have been released.  We may find that we need to run Version 5.6.10r3 in order to pass encrypted traffic via the network.  Because we encrypt traffic we must use FIPS-Level 2 certified code – but in the example above, the validated version of the FooOS will not work in our network…    What does the CISO do?  We’ll return to this in a moment, it gets better!

In order to reach levels of FIPS-140 goodness, one vendor in particular has instituted “FIPS Mode.”  What this does is require administration of the box from apposition directly in front  of the equipment, or at the length of your longest console cable…  Clearly, this is not suitable for organizations with equipment deployed worldwide to locations that do not have qualified administrators or network engineers.  Further, having to fly a technician to Burundi to clear sessions on a box every time it becomes catatonic is ridiculous at worst.  At best it’s not in accordance with the network concept of operations.  How does the CISO propose a workable, secure solution?


Standard Hill photo by timparkinson.

Now to my point.  (about time Vlad)   How does the CISO approach this situation?  Allow me to tell you the approach I’ve taken….

1. Accept the fact that once Foo OS has achieved a level of FIPS-140 goodness, the likelihood that the modules of code within the OS implementing cryptographic functionality in follow-on versions have not been changed.  This also means you have to assume the vendor has done a good job of documenting the changes to their baseline in their release notes, and that they HAVE modular code…

2. Delve into vendor documentation and FIPS-140 to find out exactly what “FIPS Mode” is, its benefits and the requirement.  Much of the written documentation in the standard deals with physical security of the cryptographic module itself (e.g., tamper-evident seals) – but most helpful is Table 1.

Security Level  1 Security Level 2 Security Level 3 Security Level 4
Cryptographic

Module Specification

Specification of cryptographic module, cryptographic boundary, Approved algorithms, and Approved modes of operation. Description of cryptographic module, including all hardware, software, and firmware components. Statement of module security policy.
Cryptographic Module Ports and Interfaces Required and optional interfaces. Specification of all interfaces and of all input and output data paths. Data ports for unprotected critical security parameters logically or physically separated from other data ports.
Roles, Services, and Authentication Logical separation of required and optional roles and services Role-based or identity-based operator authentication Identity-based operator authentication.
Finite State Model Specification of finite state model.  Required and optional states.  State transition diagram and specification of state transitions.
Physical Security Production grade equipment. Locks or tamper evidence. Tamper detection and response for covers and doors. Tamper detection and response envelope.  EFP or EFT.
Operational Environment Single operator. Executable code. Approved integrity technique. Referenced PPs evaluated at EAL2 with specified discretionary access control mechanisms and auditing. Referenced PPs plus trusted path evaluated at EAL3 plus security policy modeling. Referenced PPs plus trusted path evaluated at EAL4.
Cryptographic Key Management Key management mechanisms: random number and key generation, key establishment, key distribution, key entry/output, key storage, and key zeroization.
Secret and private keys established using manual methods may be entered or output in plaintext form. Secret and private keys established using manual methods shall be entered or output encrypted or with split knowledge procedures.
EMI/EMC 47 CFR FCC Part 15. Subpart B, Class A (Business use). Applicable FCC requirements (for radio). 47 CFR FCC Part 15. Subpart B, Class B (Home use).
Self-Tests Power-up tests: cryptographic algorithm tests, software/firmware integrity tests, critical functions tests. Conditional tests.
Design Assurance Configuration management (CM). Secure installation and generation. Design and policy correspondence. Guidance documents. CM system. Secure distribution. Functional specification. High-level language implementation. Formal model. Detailed explanations (informal proofs). Preconditions and postconditions.
Mitigation of Other Attacks Specification of mitigation of attacks for which no testable requirements are currently available.

Summary of Security Requirements From FIPS-140-2

Bottom line — some “features” are indeed useful,  but this one particular vendor’s implementation into a “one-size fits all” option tends to limit the use of the feature at all in some operational scenarios (most notably, the one your humble author is dealing with.)  BTW, changing vendors is not an option.

3. Upon analyzing the FIPS requirements against operational needs, and (importantly) the environment the equipment is operating in, one has to draw the line between “operating in vendor FIPS Mode,” and using FIPS 140-2 encryption.

4. Document the decision and the rationale.

Once again, security professionals have to help managers to strike a healthy balance between “enough” security and operational requirements.   You would think that using approved equipment, operating systems, and vendors using the CC evaluation process would be enough.  Reading the standard, we see the official acknowledgement that “Your Mileage May Indeed Vary:” TM

While the security requirements specified in this standard are intended to maintain the security provided by a cryptographic module, conformance to this standard is not sufficient to ensure that a particular module is secure. The operator of a cryptographic module is responsible for ensuring that the security provided by a module is sufficient and acceptable to the owner of the information that is being protected and that any residual risk is acknowledged and accepted.”     FIPS 140-2 Sec 15, Qualifications

The next paragraph constitutes validation of the approach I’ve embraced:

“Similarly, the use of a validated cryptographic module in a computer or telecommunications system does not guarantee the security of the overall system. The responsible authority in each agency shall ensure that the security of the system is sufficient and acceptable.“  (Emphasis added.)

One could say, “it depends,” but you wouldn’t think so at first glance – it’s a Standard for Pete’s sake!

Then again, nobody said this job would be easy!

Vlad



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Sir Bruce Mentions FDCC, World Goes Nuts

Posted May 7th, 2009 by

Check out this blog post.  Wow, all sorts of crazies decend out of the woodwork when Bruce talks about something that’s been around for years and suddenly everyone’s redesigning the desktop from the ground up.

Quick recap on comments:

  • 60-day password changes suck
  • You can do this at home, the GPOs are available from NIST
  • My blue-haired sheepdog can’t use the FDCC image, it’s broken for commercial use!
  • You wouldn’t have to do this in Linux
  • Linux is teh suxx0rz
  • My computer started beeping and smoke came out of it, is this FDCC?

Proving once again that you can’t talk about Windows desktop security without it evolving into a flamewar.  Might as well pull out “vi v/s emacs” while you’re at it, Bruce.  =)

Computer Setup photo by karindalziel.  Yes, one of them is a linux box, I used this picture for that very same reason.  =)

But there is one point that people need to understand.  The magic of FDCC is not in the fact that the Government used its IT-buying muscle to get Microsoft to cooperate.  Oh no, that’s to be expected–the guys at MS are used to working with a lot of people now on requests.

The true magic of FDCC is getting the application vendors to play along.  To wit:

  • The FDCC GPOs are freely available from NIST
  • You can download images from NIST with a preconfigured FDCC setup
  • Application vendors can test their product against FDCC in their own lab
  • There is no external audit burden (yet, it might be coming) for software vendors because it’s a self-certification
  • FDCC-compatible software doesn’t require administrative privileges

In other words, if your software works with FDCC, it’s probably built to run on a security-correct operating system in the first place.  This is a good thing, and in this case the Government is using its IT budget to bring the application vendors into some sort of minimal security to the rest of the world.

This statement is from the FDCC FAQ, comments in parenthesis are mine:

“How are vendors required to prove FDCC compliance?
There is no formal compliance process; vendors of information technology products must self-assert FDCC compliance. They are expected to ensure that their products function correctly with computers configured with the FDCC settings. The product installation process must make no changes to the FDCC settings. Applications must work with users who do not have administrative privileges, the only acceptable exception being information technology management tools. Vendors must test their products on systems configured with the FDCC settings, they must use SCAP validated tools with FDCC Scanner capability to certify their products operate correctly with FDCC configurations and do not alter FDCC settings. The OMB provided suggested language in this memo: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2007/m07-18.pdf, vendors are likely to encounter similar language when negotiating with agencies.”

So really what you get out of self-certification is something like this:



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